Once upon a time, there was a boy named Takaya and his robot ... maid: a twin-tailed moe-blob named Yui. Unfortunately for Yui, Takaya isn't particularly interested in her maid functions, but rather, uses her as a full-sized dress-up doll to fulfill his personal fetishes. This is the story of their misadventures, as well as those of their friends and neighbors.
It's almost unnecessary to state that the maid robot genre is hardly a new one - apparently, the first logical step to take in Japanese pop culture after creating the robot girl was to put her in a maid costume, and it's almost to the point where "robots in anime" might as well be glorified frilly Roombas in thigh high stockings. Still, series as divergent as Mahoromatic and Hand Maid May have explored serious themes to various extents amid all the inevitable bits of perverted humor. Indian Summer, on the other hand, focuses entirely on a scattershot barrage of often raunchy, off-color comedy, while affectionately parodying a fair number of other series. It's too busy trying to making us laugh to really care about its own setting, and oddly enough, that's perfectly okay, because this material is far too shallow to do anything serious with.
For starters, none of the characters are particularly deep. The male lead Takaya (Takayuki Kondo, best known as the voice of Ryuuichi Naruhodou / Phoenix Wright in the Ace Attorney games) is not horribly unlikable, but very focused on his dress-up fetish. Yui (Eri Kitamura, playing what looks like a postpubescent Rin Kokonoe from Kodomo no Jikan) seems perpetually caught in a strange combination of childish petulance and righteous indignation; she wants her "master" to pay attention to her - but not just by making new costumes for her to wear. Then there's a really sketchy cafe owner who seemingly pimps out his daughter by having her dress up in skimpy outfits for his business, a pair of shrine maidens who magically summon a giant octopus to randomly molest other girls for no real reason, at least once an episode, and a huge host of other (mostly superficial) characters who seem to join in, one at a time, every three minutes, accumulating like some sort of cast member katamari. It's way too large of a cast for only three episodes, and therefore the series rumbles out of focus very quickly, because, after all, the bigger the katamari, the harder it is to stay in control.
The writing is often very juvenile - at least one scene involves Yui babysitting, which leads to a diaper problem, which leads to a "baby elephant" joke (yes, the baby's a boy) which demonstrates the stark difference in taste between Japanese and American audiences -- suffice it to say that this is not an implied, offscreen "baby elephant" and leave it at that. There's lots of "gag boob" humor (though not like Eiken thankfully), and a little bit of borderline lolicon fanservice that is also thankfully left alone beyond a few seconds. There are also a lot of very abrupt, kludgy transitions (particularly between episodes two and three) that seem to come clean out of left field; this is not a cleanly or adroitly written work in regards to pacing.
Most importantly, for better or worse, this show really never attempts to address anything serious or deep whatsoever: the biggest "drama" involving Takaya and Yui has less to do with her nature as a robot, but rather, her feelings, and it's ultimately played for laughs. It's the kind of thing that could be frustrating if you're coming into this expecting the next Mahoromatic: so DON'T DO THAT.
Seriously. It's all right there on the cover: it's very clear that Indian Summer aims to do very little but give us cheap ecchi slapstick humor featuring cute girls in cute costumes. See, all those things that this series isn't good at doing are things it's not interested in - you will not hear Yui give us a "what measure is a non human" soliloquy because that's not this series was made for. This series revels in fan service, both of the physically titillating AND fandom shoutout kind (watch for an extended To Heart cameo that is actually more entertaining than the original series), and when approached in that context, it actually works because it doesn't take itself very seriously at all. It also downplays the relationships between the characters, which actually has the benefit of lowering the "creepazoid" factor of the setup to acceptable levels (as opposed to, say, Cosplay Complex). It's almost shockingly light-hearted, really - even the "tentacle humor" ends up being pretty much laughed off in-universe after even the first time around.
This was clearly never meant to be "good anime", but Indian Summer completely succeeds at everything it intends to do: it's a "guilty pleasure" ecchi comedy for guys who secretly like to play with dress up dolls.
Just, um, don't tell my wife you heard me say that.
Not every joke works, but Indian Summer is a fun, light-hearted, but VERY perverted romp through a costume fetishist's closet. Those demanding any sort of intellectual content may remove two stars and walk very quickly in the opposite direction. Similarly, if you have a maid fetish ... you probably just found a new favorite anime, huh? — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: NOT FOR CHILDREN. In additional to nearly constant fan service, there is frontal nudity (including an underage character), sexual innuendo, and an extended scene involving a ... ahem ... "baby elephant". Slapstick violence, as well. Oh, yes, and no less than three giant octopus tentacle scenes (complete with what we all hope is slime), played for laughs. No actual sex, though.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream, from the Anime Network
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Indian Summer © 2007 Mizuki Takehito - Media Works / Indian Summer Production Committee
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